UW Health Sports Medicine 

Spring practice report No. 10

The Badger football team was inside once again in the McClain Center for their 10th practice of the spring on Tuesday afternoon. UW practiced for a little less than two hours, wrapping up right around the second intermission of the Badgers' hockey game vs. RIT.

"I thought our guys came back a lot better today," head coach Bret Bielema said after practice. "Tuesday I thought was a little disappointing, just a little sloppy after being on that break. But they came back today and made a lot of improvement. I thought in the back end especially, we didn't give up very many big plays, up front held their blocks a lot better."

Watch video highlights from practice and Coach Bielema's post-practice interview

UW will be back on the field (most likely outside in Camp Randall Stadium as the forecast calls for temperatures in the 60s) on Saturday morning for its final scrimmage before the Spring Game on April 17. It will be a big work day for the Badgers.

"It will be the last time that we go good vs. good, live," Bielema said. "We'll make sure that we get all four phases of the game, regular normal down and distance, third down, short yardage/goal line and red zone. We'll have the officials out there. It will be as live as live gets because when we go to the spring game we'll go ones against the world."

From the infirmary
The Badgers continued to return bodies to practice, following the layoff for spring break.

"Gabe (Carimi) is obviously a little bit rusty, to get him back out there was huge," Bielema said. "I think we'll get (John) Moffit back in drills on Saturday. He should be able to go back the entire week next week. We got Tyler Dippel back, Brendan Kelly, as well as Eriks Briedis, so there's a couple guys that are really going to get some good work the last two weeks."

Even the players not expected to participate at all during the spring, including RB John Clay, C Peter Konz, LB Chris Borland and LB Mike Taylor, seem to be progressing well.

"All of our (injured) guys, to this point, everybody should be 100 percent for summer, which is June 7 I believe," Bielema said. "That's kind of the strategy with a couple of our guys, including John Clay, hold them out of spring ball because we really want that eight-week program to be there for them going into the fall."

Taking the reigns
With the departure of O'Brien Schofield, Chris Maragos and Jaevery McFadden from the defense, UW needs players to assume their roles, not only as playmakers on defense, but leaders. One of the players stepping up so far in practice (on both fronts) is defensive end J.J. Watt.

"Because we don't have a senior defensive lineman, he's really taken on a role since O.B. left," Bielema said. "He's just one of those natural kids. I would say over the last two years, nobody in our entire program has logged more community service hours than J.J. Every week he's doing something community service wise. Those are the guys that lead the way for us."

Practice10_4.jpgSplitting up the duties
Much like he did during his first season as head coach, Bielema has divided up the special teams coaching duties among his staff this season.

"We have guys in charge of every phase. Charlie (Partridge) runs all of punt, Greg's (Jackson) going to run all of kickoff coverage, Joe Rudolph will run kickoff return and then Chris Ash will run punt return," he said. "On my staff I now actually have five guys that have been special teams coordinators so we are trying to split it up between us.

Bielema believes this not only benefits the team but also the coaches involved.

"When you have a coach who isn't in a coordinator role ... those are guys you foresee potentially as candidates to be coordinators. The first unit that I ever ran was a special teams unit, a punt return unit. It taught me how to game plan, how to think, how to strategize. I can sit there and I can watch them and see how they install, how they game plan, how the kids relate to them. The bigger picture would show you how they potentially could be as an offensive or defensive coordinator."

Bielema, who served as the special teams coordinator in the last three seasons, will still have a role on each unit but it will be more of a support role.

Practice No. 10 Photo Gallery

Special guest
Jaxson Hinkens, a young boy battling cancer who befriended QB Scott Tolzien last season, wsa at practice with his parents. Following practice, a number of players, including Tolzien, Jon Budmayr, Nate Tice, Chris Borland, J.J. Watt, Aaron Henry and numerous others, went over to take pictures and play catch with Jaxson. About a half hour after practice had ended, Tolzien and Budmayr were out on the practice field running routes with Jaxson delivering the passes. Tolzien stayed and chatted with Jaxson and his parents and was still talking as I left the building, about an hour after practice had ended.

Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a wonderful story on the relationship between Jaxson and Tolzien last October.